Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, is a concerning side effect of the coronavirus. Photo: IANS
Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, is a concerning side effect of the coronavirus. Photo: IANS

Shona Ferguson’s death sparks conversation on how long Covid affects the heart

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Aug 2, 2021

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Media mogul Shona Ferguson’s death has shocked the nation but also sparked a conversation on the long-term effects of Covid-19.

After Ferguson Films released a statement over the weekend that Shona had passed away from Covid-19-related complications on Friday.

Some social media users who had been affected by the effects of Covid-19 months after they had tested negative spoke out.

Politician Mbali Ntuli is one of the people who sparked the conversation.

“Last year, I had a very bad case of Covid. It affected my heart. Went for a check-up this week and the doctor says my heart has gotten worse as an after-effect of Covid and may require a pacemaker. Going to see another specialist for more tests but I have to say I’m quite numb,” she tweeted.

Many people responded to Ntuli with well-wishes while others shared how Covid left them with similar effects.

“Thinking of you, I am in the same boat. Had a defibrillator implanted in June after Covid messed up my heart in January. I battle with a 19% ejection fraction as a result. Good luck to you, hope you get all the help you need,” one responded.

Another said: “I had Covid last year and I had a heart attack. I no longer sweat way I’m used too and I always having abdominal pains but when I go to the doctors they see nothing.”

What was evident in the conversation on social media was just how the symptoms of long Covid disrupted people’s day-to-day lives.

Covid-19 has many potential sequelae, secondary conditions directly resulting from the infection. One of the concerning ones may affect the heart is myocarditis, which is defined as inflammation of the heart muscle and is commonly associated with a viral infection, according to the American Heart Association.

The Mayo Clinic indicates that common symptoms of myocarditis can include chest pain and shortness of breath, as well as arrhythmias and fatigue. In more severe cases, myocarditis can lead to heart failure, a heart attack, stroke and even sudden cardiac arrest.

While the connection between Covid-19 and myocarditis has not been identified, several theories are being studied and point to either the virus itself or potentially the immune response to the virus.

While there isn't enough data in South Africa about the condition, other countries have been exploring how the virus may affect the heart. A study published in September last year, by Siripanthong and colleagues in Heart Rhythm, indicates that the virus can enter heart tissue through the ACE2 receptor. In the latter, a review article by Tschöpe and colleagues, published in Nature a month later, argues that the adaptive immune system’s response to a Sars-CoV-2 infection can result in inflammation to the heart muscle. Both theories, however, need further evaluation in relation to Covid-19.

While studies on this continue, it is important to note that the evidence to suggest that myocarditis develops after Covid-19 and its incidence need to be further investigated.

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